The potential market for Boeing Australia’s ‘Loyal Wingman’ Airpower Teaming System (ATS) has received a significant boost following the US Government’s decision to fund two new Boeing F-15 Eagles, designated F-15EX, for the United States Air Force (USAF).
The US Navy and Boeing recently announced the successful demonstration of two autonomously controlled EA-18G Growlers during the Navy Warfare Development Command’s annual fleet experiment (FLEX) at Patuxent River. The experiment involved the Growlers acting as unmanned systems under the control of a third Growler to prove the effectiveness of F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircrew to remotely control fighter and attack platforms from the cockpit.
It follows that a F-15EX Loyal Wingman would fit into a similar manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) mission system architecture.
As well as being able to carry 22 air-to-air missiles, more significantly the F-15EX has a new, powerful digital mission computer, large format next generation cockpit displays, and an electronic warfare and threat identification system: the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS). This would make the F-15EX a potent mothership for a Loyal Wingman formation and provide commonality across US Navy and USAF platforms with similar upgrades planned for the Super Hornet Block III.
Furthermore, mission computer upgrades are potentially on the cards for existing F-15 users such as Japan, South Korea, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, opening additional export opportunities for the ATS, as well as operational air power teaming opportunities with regional partners. The latest build of the Eagle has also been acquired by Qatar who is expected to receive its first F-15QAs in 2021/22.
As reported in an exclusive feature in ADBR at the 2019 Avalon Airshow, the ATS represents the first full-scale Australian-designed high performance aircraft development program since the Jindivik drone in the 1950s and 60s. Funded through DEF 6014 Phase 1, Boeing will deliver three full scale air vehicles and associated systems with manufacturing in Australia well underway. The first flight of the Loyal Wingman prototype is expected later this year.
As well as the platform, industry opportunities include sensors and payloads, and an emerging raft of autonomous technologies and enabling systems.